We have seen that our relationships contain many unspoken expectations on what we expect or assume should happen in different contexts within our shared lives. And we recognise that each partner visualises situations differently according to how we interpret events.
In other words: there are differences of interpretation in how we view reality.
For example, five people looking at a horse over a hedgerow can see five different realities: one a racehorse, one a workhorse, one a painting, one a family pet and another a dangerous animal who could kill or injure you.
Frequently we see things not as they are, but as we are.
This is particularly true of our loving relationship in that society, culture and family of origin heavily influence how we interpret events. And within our busy lives, predisposed to a culture of immediacy, we seldom have the time to reflect on what is going on within our relationship. As a consequence we have countless expectations of each other that we’ve scarcely held up to the light of examination. So how do we manage to become more self aware of our world of expectations?
Perhaps the most stimulating and rewarding exercise from a couples perspective is to engage in the shared world of ‘Scenario Learning’. Scenario learning is about imagining possible futures within our relationship so that we are ready for whatever happens in our lives.
They are not predictions or dizzy wish lists. In essence, Scenario Learning anticipates possible futures and limits unexamined expectations. It revolves around the 'What if?' questions. Here are some examples for you to follow!
- What if you became ill and couldn’t work anymore?
- What if I lost my job and we couldn’t pay the mortgage?
- What if I wanted to sell the house and move to Australia?
- What if our relationship broke down?
- What if you were being bullied at work and you felt I wasn’t as supportive as you would like?
- What if you became very short of money and felt you couldn’t ask me for help?
- What if my parents broke up and Mum asked to come live with us?
The teasing out of such scenarios facilitates us to ponder over possibilities not previously articulated or considered within our relationship. It allows us to bring the unconscious into conscious consideration. Most essentially, it assists us in understanding one another more fully and in transforming our unspoken expectations into stated realities.
Engage in Scenario Learning with each other in jointly drawing up a list of ten ‘What ifs’ relevant to your relationship! Discuss each one and jointly decide on an agreed course of possible actions. Now reflect on what new insights or learning you’ve become aware of about your partner!